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The Tube: Inaugural underground rail service celebrates 160 years of success

Today marks a historic moment, as the Tube celebrates its 160th anniversary, highlighting how the world’s first underground railway continues to supply quality services for the nation’s capital.

The inaugural journey on the Tube, a service that traversed between Paddington and Farringdon stations 160 years ago today, came as part of the Metropolitan Railway. To mark this momentous milestone, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan met with four of the London Underground staff members, who’s accumulative years of service totalled 160 years across a range of roles.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

 “I'm delighted to kick-start a year of celebrations as the world’s first underground railway – the Tube – marks its 160th birthday, unveiling a roundel at one of our oldest Tube stations, which celebrates London's affection for our world-famous underground.

“The Tube is a true London icon, connecting people across the capital and transporting tourists and commuters across the city. On 10 January 1863, the world's first underground railway opened and from that day forward the London Underground has been at the heart of the capital’s history, continuing to grow and evolve alongside the city it transports. I’m so proud of the history of our Tube and I’m determined that the London Underground will continue to deliver a world-leading service fit for the 21st century, and contribute to a better, safer and fairer city for all Londoners.”

Celebrations took place at Baker Street station, one of the original stations that opened on 10th January 1863, and welcomed the unveiling of a roundel to signify the occasion that customers can spot at stations across the network, including Gloucester Road, Brixton, Oxford Circus and Covent Garden.

Acting as a paragon of the British rail sector since its inception, the Tube has consistently upheld the city of London and allowed residents to travel freely throughout, contributing massively to the economic growth of the city and creating an iconic interconnected metropolis with accessible movement for millions of people.

Andy Lord, London’s Transport Commissioner, said:

“A milestone birthday gives us the perfect opportunity to reflect on the historical significance of the Tube and how it has expanded and improved to meet the needs of an ever-changing world city. During this time, the Tube has breathed new life into unconnected parts of London and been the catalyst to many local economies. It also gives us the opportunity to look forward to the next raft of improvements and to continue planning to ensure that the Tube serves our city ably and efficiently for the next 160 years.”  

Though Tube ridership hit a plateau during the recent pandemic, since the ease of lockdown restrictions the Tube has seen steady increases in ridership which now sits around 80%, with weekend ridership increasingly edging towards levels seen before the pandemic.

To celebrate the historic occasion, there is a planned programme of activities throughout 2023, with themes centred around the Tube’s innovation, its contribution to improving the environment, how the Tube connects people and places, how it supports diversity and inclusion, and its unique and world-renowned architecture and design. The first of these festivities will be a self-guided treasure hunt across all of the original Metropolitan Railway stations on 21st January.

Supporting these celebrations will be the London Transport Museum, highlighting the heritage and innovations to public transport that have transpired throughout the underground’s lifecycle. These will be accompanied by the museum’s permanent exhibitions, which encourage visitors to explore the Tube’s rich history as the world’s premier subterranean railway.

Sam Mullins OBE, Director of the London Transport Museum, said:

 “The opening of the Underground in 1863 and its evolution over the past 160 years has continually shaped London. Deploying cutting edge engineering, design and service innovation, the Underground has kept the city on the move and given it the strong character we know today. The network has both responded to and promoted the growth of the city, spurred regeneration, connected communities and made it accessible to residents and visitors alike. We look forward to welcoming visitors to the Museum in Covent Garden to share this fascinating lens for London’s history.” 

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